He works tirelessly to help kids fight cancer, and now gets a dream gift in return

June 22, 2017 5:06 pm Last Updated: June 22, 2017 5:06 pm


A grateful family helps repay the tireless founder of a cancer foundation.

Some people dedicate their lives to making the world a better place and never expect anything in return. But sometimes, it’s nice to give back to them anyway.

That’s the case for Joe McDonough, founder of the B+ (“be positive”) Foundation. Joe has made it his life’s work to help children with cancer and their families, and, with the help of TODAY and Celebrity Cruises, he received a gracious gift for all his efforts: a week-long Alaskan cruise for him and his family. You can see his priceless reaction in the video below.

Joe didn’t care what job or position her had, but he had always dreamed of becoming a father. His life was complete with the birth of his two children, daughter Ali and son Andrew.

But then the shocking news came in 2007, when 14-year-old Andrew was diagnosed with lieukemia – and died less than six months later.

The loss of a child is always an unimaginably heartbreaking experience and for Joe, it was a truly life-changing event. He decided to use his grief as a force for good, and to give support to the countless other families going through the pain he felt. Joe quit his office job and started the non-profit B+ foundation, where he serves full-time as president.

His wife Chris began the foundation with him. “It was really important to us to support both ends: the treatment of childhood cancer, as well as the more immediate, short-term financial assistance to families who are going through it,” she explained to TODAY.

The foundation’s website says that in addition to providing financial resources for families, they fund and advocate for the funding of childhood cancer research. They also help connect patients to cancer treatment trials.

This year, you've helped us get closer to a world without childhood cancer. You helped B+: 1) Become the largest provider of financial assistance to families of children with cancer nationwide. In 2016 alone, B+ has helped over 2,200 families of kids with cancer (from every state in the country) pay their bills. 2) Fund cutting-edge CHILDHOOD cancer research. 3) Spread the B+ Message at schools, companies, dance studios, and with sports teams across the nation. We can't do it without the support of generous people all over the country. Before the year ends, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to our efforts at https://www.beposfdn.org/donate/ #YearInReview #BePositive #ChildhoodCancer

A post shared by Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation (@bepositivefdn) on

They’re also dedicated to spreading a positive message, with a motto saying “It’s not a grade. It’s an attitude.”

“We share the lessons that Andrew taught us: have fun, set goals and try your best, show affection, and be comfortable with yourself,” the site reads.

The foundation has helped countless families across 200 hospitals. The Weiss family, whose daughter Hayden was diagnosed with cancer is one of those that have felt the impact of Joe in their lives.

“Any family that receives the news that their child has cancer, that’s a very lonely feeling,” Helen explained, with tears in her eyes. “Joe has made it less lonely for us. He’s almost like extended family.”

And Joe feels the same way. Though undoubtedly nothing can make up for the loss of his own son, through his work in the foundation he is now part of the lives of hundreds of young patients, who he considers his surrogate children.

Which is why TODAY brought in the Weiss family, including Hayden, who calls McDonough her “Uncle Joe,” to help them surprise Joe with an amazing gift.

The Weiss family hands Joe a letter: “Dear Joe, for years you have been the one to do the giving, especially when it comes to the B+ Foundation,” Joe read aloud, growing emotional. “We thought it was time for the tables to turn and for someone to give something to you, a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Alaska.” The destination was a dream of Joe’s.

“Can I put you in my suitcase and take you with me?” Joe joked with Hayden.

The gift came from TODAY with help from CruisingStore.com and Celebrity Cruises.

The vacation with his family will be a nice break for Joe, who reportedly never takes time off from the foundation. But as soon as he returns he will gladly resume to paying it forward to other families, all in the memory of his son. “I’m confident Andrew is smiling down proudly,” he said.

To help with the B+ Foundation, you can visit their website.